Today's word is an expression: l'enjeu est grand
: the stakes are high (there is a lot at risk)
All kinds of "steaks" or "enjeu" expression here, if you are looking to improve your French. If you are looking to relate to life... then please read my story, below. It's a follow up about the memoir I would like to write...
A Day in a French Life... by Kristin Espinasse
Do not allow yourself to get excited by what is said about you. Let the world talk. —Fenelon
Jean-Marc and I are lying on our backs in the dark. It is 5 in the morning and I've had insomnia for the first time in years. My mind is spinning after the recent revelations I have shared on my blog. But no matter the positive reception, no matter the encouragements, I can't help but fear what's coming next—if I go ahead with plans with this tell-all memoir.
The thought sends chills and I pull up the covers. "I feel hungover," I joke, turning to my husband. But just like the aftermath of a drinking spree, will I regret being so loose with my story? So much has already come out, in the previous posts. The sharing of my sobriety is detoxifying. There are cold sweats and headaches now, ten years after my last drink.
Jean-Marc laughs. "It's all that pastis you swallowed last night!" As he shifts beneath the covers, pockets of warmth are freed, enveloping me. With the warmth, comes a sense of security. It seems safe to broach a subject that is bothering me.
"There are a couple chapters we need to talk about..." I begin. Though I have gone over the sensitive material many times in my mind, I forget that Jean-Marc is hearing the chapter outline for the first time. So busy spitting out the controversial details, I am unaware of the growing silence in the room.
"If I could just get past these chapters," I conclude, "I think I can tell the rest of my story."
Jean-Marc turns over, his back is now to me. In 19 years of marriage, such body language is easier than French to interpret.
I quietly get up to make our tea, realizing that my number one supporter may no longer be able to cheer me to the finish line. Without him, I will not make it past chapter one. I won't even want to.
Stopping at the bathroom sink, I splash water on my face. Looking into the little mirror, I see scars all over: a huge "H" on my forehead, an "L" down my nose. Stitch, stitch, stitch. The latest one, a dent near the tip of my nose, tells of ongoing struggles.
Damn it! I think, shutting off the tap. He's still mad at me. But haven't I paid for my past follies? If my squeaky-clean daily living wasn't enough, I'd coped with skin cancer in the last year and a half. It is as though the recovery work that began in me a decade ago continues to push up "toxins"—to the very surface of my skin!
Climbing back into bed with the hot mugs, I hand Jean-Marc his tea, setting mine down on the nightstand beside a stack of notebooks. Slipping under the covers I still feel the chill in the air. I ask Jean-Marc what he is thinking.
"About a lot of things..." My husband's words feel condemning.
But what did I expect? I deserve the cold shoulder—I have put him through a lot. I will continue to pay penance for my actions, not because he asks me to—but because I need to! I will bring Jean-Marc his morning tea... I will write my stories, always focusing on the good things... I will wear sunscreen!
"Listen," I say, defensively. "I don't have to write this book. I can stop now, call it quits after those two chapters. I have received several notes... readers telling me that because of my coming clean, they are finally going to quit drinking. If writing those chapters has helped someone, it has been worth it. I need not go any farther!"
"But this book," I continue, "is not about drinking. As for the chapters I have just told you about, I don't have to include them. I can just omit the information and the story will be: "I got drunk, I fell down, I got sober, I started a blog, became an author, moved to a winery! stayed sober through that, and skin cancer—and lived happily ever after!
Re the controversial parts, I can drag myself over the coals sharing all my faults and revealing all my transgressions. And YOU can be the hero at the end of every episode, cheering me on and on!
But by not sharing the whole story, my behavior—recounted across those revelatory pages—won't make a lot of sense! All the colorful exploits will be taken out of context. Either I tell the whole story, or quit now.
The look on Jean-Marc's face tells me he's coming round... but just in case, I assure him:
Yes, I can just stick to blog-writing and keep typing these skipping-through-lavender-fields lighthearted anecdotes. And you can be the one who is always hiding encouraging notes in my robe pocket, gifting me with cherry trees," I say, referring to the opening chapter in the book that I still so deeply want to write.
"I told you," Jean-Marc mumbles, "write what you need to write."
Another period of silence passes in which each of us reaches for our computers and our tea, to surf the net, silently. Checking my mail I am struck dumb by a letter.
The forwarded email has accidentally ended up in my inbox. In the letter, someone I admire—who has also shown a lot of affection toward me—is telling another friend about the first two chapters of my memoir. Concerning the Prologue story, she writes:
This one is about her marking her 10th anniversary of sobriety. And, yes, if you read it and get the impression her husband is a jerk, he is.
I am stunned as I read my friend's words. I know she cares about me, but I had no idea how she felt about my husband! Farther down the email, I see the recipient's response:
I can appreciate what this woman went through to get where she is and should I assume that the rest of the manuscript details what it took for her (and out of her) to get where she is today?
They were talking about us—me and "The Jerk"! My heart fell as I began to realize the consequences of my sharing. Write enough about my husband—no matter how lovingly—and somebody out there is going to think he is a connard!
It occurred to me then that no matter how sensitively I told my story, I was putting my husband's reputation at risk.
"You have my permission," Jean-Marc said, setting down his tea. "I don't care what anybody thinks about me."
"But you should care. It might hurt you one day. Someone might mistake you for a connard!"
The more I thought about it, I realized what danger I was putting him in. Though a few illustrative sentences about Jean-Marc's behavior might balance out my own questionable behavior in one of the dramatic chapters, would readers be left with a bad taste in their mouths? And would that be what they remembered?
Only I will know all his proofs of love and the lengths he has gone to to pull us through.
Next I thought about the risk to my own reputation. Did I really want to be labelled? You know, she's an alcoholic... complete strangers would say. Should I choose to go ahead with my story, there would be other colorful labels that would crop up, too!
Having built up a blog in the past ten years, with supportive (and down right adoring) readers, do I want to risk off-putting any one of them with some tidbit from my private life?
I began to think about all of the people that would read my story, from my French aunts to my grandchildren to the lady at the flower stand, to whom I had given my card. Did I want them to know everything about me? What would be the consequences?
In ten years would family members look at me and say, "But Kristi, what were you thinking?"
Would my husband still be here?
Is it really worth it? Even if I were to work with an agent and a publisher—and be paid for my story—would it be, in the end, at my very own expense?
Monday morning now. My husband is laughing again. After a particularly painful weekend, he is back to his chipper, teasing self when I bring him his morning tea.
"Pray for me, that I might tell this story," I whisper.
"I already have," Jean-Marc smiles.
"Are you just saying that? You didn't pray!" I say, poking his side.
"Yes, I did," he pokes me back, and I'm touched, believing him.
My mom supports me, my sister too: "Call me every day," Heidi insists, encouraging me to tell my story, if it will help me. "I think it will help others," I say.
"You bet it will help others!" my sister agrees.
Post note: To my friend who wrote that Jean-Marc is a jerk. He has not seen your letter and I am not mad at you. I only ask that you will remember to withhold judgment. I want to tell my story but I am terrified of anyone judging my husband or myself, which will happen, I know.
Jean-Marc may not always be an angel, but he is my Prince Charming. His love has swooped me up, quite literally off the ground.
A final word: when I have my doubts about sharing my story, including the bad decisions I have made, it gives me great courage to know that readers are not judging me. I read every comment, here are just a few that speak to me, as I continue to weigh whether or not to share certain details of my story:
If it gives someone else the courage to make important changes, it will be worth it. Hopefully, it is therapeutic for you as well. There is no shame in past weakness overcome, or, at least held at bay. --Rob T
Kristin- You may never see my comment-- there are so many. And it doesn't really matter. Stop worrying about what everyone else thinks and focus on you. You are a brave, strong woman. It takes guts to admit that you aren't perfect, but none of us are. This "confession" only makes me admire you more. We all have weaknesses, skeletons, "fallings down" or however you want to put it. We are human. Be true to yourself. I wish you the very best. Write this book for you. I will read it and so will many others. Much love sent your way- Teresa.
Chapters: click on the following links to read the book that I am currently writing
Jean-Marc (here with Tom Mann) will kick off his USA Wine Tour this spring. Check out his itinerary and see if he will be in your area. Click here.
A Message from Kristi on this blog's 19th anniversary
Thank you for reading this language journal. In 2002 I left my job at a vineyard and became self-employed in France. "French Word-A-Day" has been my full-time occupation ever since. Ongoing support from readers like you helps keep this site ad-free and allows me to focus on writing. My wish is to continue creating posts that are educational, insightful, and heart-warming. If my work has touched you in any way, please consider supporting it via a blog donation.
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